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Posts Tagged ‘vigil’

john preaches 4-19-11 

Rev. John Gregory Davis called on “Passover Prophets and Resurrection Resisters” to bring a message of social justice to the New Hampshire State House at the United Church of Christ New Hampshire Conference’s second Advocacy Day, April 19. And that’s what they did.  Meeting at South Congregational Church in Concord, a few dozen UCC members and friends honed their advocacy skills for most of the morning and then set off for the State House, four blocks away.

Several activists associated with the United Valley Interfaith Project joined up with others from the Granite State Organizing Project to testify against SB 160, one of two bills that threaten to bring back predatory payday and car title loans, allowing interest rates as high as 403%.

“We are here because SB 160 brings usury — something we as people of faith have  opposed for thousands of years — back into New Hampshire,” Rod Wendt and Glinda Allen told the House Commerce Committee. “SB 160 will bring back predatory lending practices that will entrap poor people, people with little education and financial sophistication, in a downward spiral of debt. As people of faith, we find this exploitation of the poorest and most vulnerable among us totally inconsistent with the values we hold dear — of caring for the poor, being our brother’s keeper, showing compassion.”

In addition to attending hearings and talking with legislators in the State House Cafeteria, participants swelled the ranks of Interfaith Voices for a Humane Budget, the group that has conducted vigils outside meetings of the UVIP & L Harding 4-19-11Senate Finance Committee since the beginning of April. Today, the vigil moved to the Senate’s Ways and Means Committee, whose revenue estimates will determine whether the Senate chooses to slash the budgets for essential services as deeply as the House did. “We are called to bring kindness and compassion to all those places where it has been lost,” said the Rev. Larry Brickner-Wood, of the UNH United Campus Ministry, in one of several prayers offered in the hallway outside State House Room 100, where Senate Ways and Means holds its meetings.

Sadly, furthering exploitation of the poorest and most vulnerable among us appears to be entirely consistent with the priorities of legislative leaders, at least in the NH House, which approved its version of the budget March 31. State Senators are still deliberating over the budget, and will hold public hearings in Representatives Hall Thursday from 2 to 4 PM and again from 6 to 8 PM. Whether they will respond to the urgent pleas of those who depend on taxpayer-supported programs for services that enable dignified lives remains to be seen.

Before then, the Senate will show its colors when it votes tomorrow morning on the proposal to turn New Hampshire into a Right-to-Work (for LESS) state, as defined by HB 474. This anti-union, anti-worker agenda has been defeated consistently for at least three decades. But this year, legislators hostile to organized workers appear to have the upper hand.

What was clear today is that anti-union legislation will not pass with the cooperation ODell 4-19-11 of the state’s faith community. Outside Room 100, UCC clergy and lay members made it clear to Senator Bob O’Dell, whose vote could be key, that they oppose Right-to-Work.

Senators have already indicated that they will delete from the House-passed budget a provision stripping effective collective bargaining rights from public sector workers. But another provisi0n with similar intent is contained in HB 580, a House-passed measure on public employee pensions. This one says that when collective bargaining agreements (union contracts) expire, “the continuation … of any medical, dental, and life insurance benefits, retirement and pension benefits, and any other fringe benefits shall be subject to the exclusive authority of the public employer. “ In other words, an employer who refuses to bargain can unilaterally cancel benefits workers have been counting on receiving. Senators who thought such language was not appropriate for the budget rider bill, HB 2, might have a different attitude for similarly pernicious provisions in a pension bill.

Gail Kinney, a member of the UCC’s Commission on Witness and Action, calls the anti-union agenda moving through the legislature a “wholesale attack on the middle class.”

“The undermining of working gail 4-19-11families is feeding the vast economic divide in the U.S. Multiple polls show this attack on workers is not what the public signed on for when it changed political horses in 2010. This is a struggle for economic fairness, balance, and healthy communities that should be of real concern to people of faith,” she said.

The Interfaith Voices vigil resumes Thursday during the Senate Finance Committee’s budget hearing.

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frank mary 4-4-11

Clergy members and other people of faith resumed our State House prayer vigil yesterday and will return at 10 AM tomorrow to the hallway outsiLR outside rm 103 4-4-11de the Senate Finance Committee meeting to pray for a humane budget.

Thirteen religious activists joined yesterday’s vigil outside State House Room  103, where the Senate Finance Committee was listening to presentations from their House colleagues.

The Committee’s deliberations continue tomorrow, beginning at 10 AM.

During their vigils, the interfaith group has alternated between periods of silent reflection, spoken prayer, and readings from devotional literature. 

mark reads MLK 4-4-11 Several members noted that yesterday was the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination in Memphis, where he had gone to support striking sanitation workers.  Mark Baker read a selection from Dr. King’s final speech.  

Yesterday State House Security agreed we could sit on floor mats outside Room 103 as long as we do not block the corridors, but they did say our singing was a problem. We are not trying to disrupt State House proceedings, but we do want the odell 4-4-11legislators to hear our prayers for a change of course and a change of heart.

The vigil will go on vigil during Senate Finance Committee meetings Thursday, Friday, and Monday, when the Senators will hear testimony from staff of the Department of Health and Human Services.  Please get in touch if you’d like to join. 

 group shot 4-4-11

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vigil 3-31 batch 2 001

While several thousand people outside chanted “New Hampshire Can Do Better,” and a dozen religious activists continued their prayer vigil in the State House’s third floor hallway, the New Hampshire House of Representatives today approved a $10.2 Billion budget that cuts deeply into the fabric of programs our communities rely upon.

The Concord Monitor called it correctly this morning in an editorial that said the budget is“so heartless invigil 3-31 batch 2 027 its approach to the poor, the disabled and the mentally ill as to be immoral. Should it become law, New Hampshire will be a different state, one that under the guise of ‘personal responsibility’ replaces the social compact with the survival of the fittest.”

The budget proposal, which now moves over to the Senate for further consideration, cuts funds for homeless prevention, mental health , child care subsidies, higher education, secondary education for technical students, and more.

After 16 roll call votes on amendments and procedures, the final roll call vote was 243 to 124.

Yesterday the same group of legislators voted for a measure that would nullify public sector collective bargaining agreements upon their expiration, at which time all workers would be employed at will and subject to unilateral management decisions regarding wages, benefits, and working conditions.   Critics have called it “Wisconsin on vigil 3-31 batch 2 009steroids.”  

The morning began with nine participants in what is now called “Interfaith Voices for a Humane Budget” conducting their vigil in the hallway outside the 3rd floor office of the Speaker of the House.  During the course of the day they were joined by other active clergy, retired clergy, Quakers, and lay members of several congregations.   They agreed they would return Monday at 1 PM, when the House Finance Committee will present the budget to the Senate Finance Committee.  The vigil will relocate to the first floor hallway outside Room 103.  The meeting will be an information session, not a public hearing.  Public testimony will be invited at a later date, but comments to Senators are already timvigil 3-31 batch 2 030ely.   

The Senate Commerce Committee will take up the House-passed proposal to turn New Hampshire into a Right-to-Work (for LESS) state at 9 AM on Tuesday in  Representatives Hall.  This one is a public hearing, which means that anyone can present testimony on why it matters for New Hampshire to respect the human right of workers to organize unions and bargain collectively.  

As I write this, hundreds of teachers are rallying on the State House Plaza.  Discouraged as I am by the mean-spiritedness of our elected officials, I am heartened by the renewed community-minded spirit of resistance to the House proposals. 

teachers 3-31 002

 

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frank and escort 

Vigil to Resume Thursday

CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE — Seven religious leaders opposed to cuts in human services and anti-union provisions of the proposed state budget were escorted from the State House by police at 7:30 PM after a five and bill LRa half hour prayer vigil at the office of Speaker of the House William O’Brien.

The religious leaders will return to the State House Thursday morning to continue their vigil, while the House continues its consideration of the budget.

The vigil began shortly after 2 PM, when the group, Voices of Faith for a Humane Budget, arrived at the Speakers office and announced their intention to begin a prayer vigil. As Rev. Bill Exner, of St. Matthews Episcopal Church in Goffstown, prayed and read from the book of Isaiah, a member of the Speaker’s staff and State House Security ordered the group to leave the office.

For the next five and a half hours the group sat in the hallway outside the office, where they shared prayers, songs, periods of silence, and Bill Mary Trooper Chris Laporte discussion of the many issues at stake in the state budget debate. Members of the group decried the impact of the proposed budget on the state’s most vulnerable residents and its public employees.

Following the House vote in favor of House Bill 2, which contained provisions limiting collective bargaining rights and lessening the responsibility of cities and towns to care for their neediest residents, the vigil concluded with a song and a prayer for public sector workers. State Troopers stood nearby, and then proceeded to escort the vigilers from the building.

In a letter delivered to the Speaker’s office Tuesday afternoon, the group said “In recent weeks we have closely followed discussions and debates over the state budget. As people who believe in loving our neighbors, and as people who believe that we are unambiguously responsible to advocate for and serve those who are mark most vulnerable among us, we are deeply troubled by the dramatic cuts in funds for essential services contained in the budget proposal, which will be before the House on Wednesday and Thursday.”

“In addition,” the letter said, “we are in profound distress over proposals to lessen the responsibilities of communities to care for those most in need and to undermine the collective rights of those who serve our communities as teachers, firefighters, public safety officers, and other public servants.”

In addition to Rev. Exner, participants in the prayer vigil included

Rev. Dr. Mary Westfall, Pastor of the Community Church of Durham,

Rev. Dr. Frank Irvine, of Concord, a retired United Church of Christ pastor,

frank barbara bill Gregory Heath, of Canterbury, co-clerk Concord Friends Meeting (Quaker), and a member of the Oxbow Zen Sangha, a Canterbury based Buddhist group,

Mark Barker, of Boscawen, a member of Concord Friends Meeting (Quaker),

Arnie Alpert, of Canterbury, the New Hampshire Program Coordinator for the American Friends Service Committee,

L. R. Berger, of Contoocook, Northeast Regional Associate, Pace e Bene Nonviolence Service, and

Barbara French, a member of the Henniker Congregational Church, who had to leave at 4:30 PM.

Rev. Kendra Ford of the Exeter Unitarian Universalist Church joined the vigil for about two hours.

LR 2

prayerfor public sector

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